A study from the University of Teramo in Italy has looked into the antioxidant levels of ‘commercially available edible insects’ for the first time – and found that crickets have antioxidant power five times higher than fresh orange juice.
The study, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, also found that silkworm, giant cicada and African caterpillar fat has twice the antioxidant power of olive oil.
After grinding down the insects to produce water soluble extracts, the scientists found grasshoppers, black ants and mealworms also have the highest levels of polyphenols - a type of antioxidants.
According to the Mayo Clinic, foods high in antioxidants – like the studied crickets and silkworms – help to ‘protect your cells against free radicals’. Free radicals can play a role in heart disease and cancer.
Other foods that are high in antioxidants include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and cocoa.
The study stated: “Results show that water-soluble extracts of grasshoppers, silkworm, and crickets display the highest values of antioxidant capacity, five-fold higher than fresh orange juice.”
Researchers looked into the antioxidant power of edible insects after they saw ‘a new global interest in entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, and invertebrates’ which arose from people trying to reduce their carbon footprint of animal food consumption.
The authors of the study concluded that ‘edible insects and invertebrates represent a potential source of unexplored redox ingredients with low ecological impact’.
Professor Mauro Serafini, the study’s lead author, said in a statement: "At least two billion people - a quarter of the world’s population - regularly eat insects.
“The rest of us will need a bit more encouragement.
“Edible insects are an excellent source of protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and fiber.
“But until now, nobody had compared them with classical functional foods such as olive oil or orange juice in terms of antioxidant activity.
“In the future, we might also adapt dietary regimens for insect rearing in order to increase their antioxidant content for animal or human consumption.”